Runway Show Examines Muslim-American Fashion

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The Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations, an affiliated institute of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, hosted a fashion runway show and panel focusing on Muslim-American fashion on April 25, 2016.

The event, entitled “Muslim-American Fashion: Modesty, Identity and Public Perception” included a fashion runway show with models including Taiba Zahir, Annika Schmeding, Sabrina Hassan, Zainab Kazmi, Zoaa ElTemtamy and Caroline Lord.

The runway show was preceded by a panel including Pardee School Assistant Professor Noora Lori, Co-Founder of Wise Systems Layla Shaikley, International News Journalist Malika Bilal and owner of Amirah Couture Amirah Aulaqi.

Lori said she felt the fashion show provided an opportunity for a narrative on Muslim-American fashion focused on expression instead of oppression.

“To not have a narrative about oppression is what is really exciting about this event,” Lori said. “To have a narrative that is actually about fashion, that’s actually about expression and what that means, and what it means to be American and wear the hijab and what it means to be American and Muslim at a time when it seems those signifiers are more and more in tension.”

Bilal discussed how she wanted to become a fashion designer when she was growing up, a dream she never fulfilled, but how her career as a journalist still allows her to incorporate her passion for fashion into her daily life.

“I take it now that fashion designing wasn’t really my calling in life, I think journalism was, but there is an opportunity everyday, it’s an opportunity and a stress, to be on television and get to decide how to present myself,” Bilal said.

Shaikley discussed how closely fashion for Muslim-American women is tied to religious and cultural identity.

“Muslim woman today who choose to wear a hijab happen to be the most visible symbol of the faith at a time when the faith is incredibly misunderstood and incredibly misrepresented,” Shaikley said.

The event was also sponsored by the Islamic Society of Boston University, the Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, The Department of Religion, The Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs, the Mizan Project and the Pardee School.